Save Yourself (But maybe not)

Today is Day 04 following the Great Windstorm of 2017. Have they officially dubbed it a hurricane? To be honest, I have not been consuming much news this week, so if there’s a name for the storm that landed Sunday night, wreaking havoc across Northern New England, please clue me in.

We’re fortunate. I say “fortunate” because we didn’t have any trees land on our house or garage. We had a partial window shatter (the outer pane in a two-paned weather-resistant window facing the water), but no water invaded our domestic confines. Poor Lucy, our cat, slept about as well as I did Sunday night and early Monday morning, which means hardly at all. She’s been in recovery mode all week, sleeping during the day, rather than watching birds and squirrels from her usual perch in a window. Oh to be a cat like Lucy!

We have several trees lying on the ground. We had some water coming in around a vent above the garage and it’s leaking through the ceiling. This isn’t related to this storm, as we’ve had issues with this during prior heavy rains. Given that the summer and early fall have been bone dry, this hasn’t presented itself until re-surfacing a week ago. The property manager is dispensing his handyman to the house on Friday. Based on past practice, he’ll figure out what needs to be done while making an assessment about our window situation. I think the tree crew will be out next week, but that’s conjecture at this point.

We got electricity back Tuesday night. We were fortunate. Many CMP customers are still in the dark. Others are freaking out about their website. Perhaps technology can’t save us? It sure as hell can’t restore downed power lines.

We contacted friends we know in our area offering a place to charge devices, take a shower, and have a hot meal. People did the same for us earlier. People helping people.

That latter point is one I want to spend the rest of my post talking about and circling around.

We’ve all heard the reports from other places affected by storms that were much more severe than what we’ve just come through. Puerto Rico, islands in the Caribbean, Florida, Houston—the list could be extended far beyond. Highly-publicized weather events like Hurricane Sandy that hammered the shoreline of New Jersey in 2015, and of course, Katrina (we don’t even call it Hurricane Katrina any more) in New Orleans are etched in our memories.

I could certainly touch down with the fury of a microburst about the climate issues affecting and causing weather events to increase in intensity, as well as frequency. Our son, Mark, was walking with bare feet trying to draw attention and awareness to the issue. He was far more effective than I could be with mere words. Not only was he gifted using words as a poet, but he was a performance artist, too. That gets missed by some, especially those leaving hateful comments on YouTube, demonstrating their obvious sociopathic signatures.

A drumbeat I’ve circled back around to frequently in blog posts over the past few years has been the importance of public infrastructure. That could be our bridges, highways, electrical grid, dams—a few components of an essential public framework that serves as America’s backbone. I even was hopeful of finding a publishing home for a series on the subject. Without “beating a dead horse,” the past two years have been incredibly disappointing for me as a freelancer. Actually, last fall during the time we were readying our house in Durham to be sold, I seriously considered packing-up my writer’s toolkit and accepting any old job that offered a decent salary and some measure of job-security. I shared this with Mark.

You probably already know what he said to me if you’ve read any of my stuff from the previous 10 months since he was killed. We had a special father-son relationship and bond. Mark often said, “keep doing what you’re doing, dad.” He offered this, not in some rote, robotic response, trying to “fix” me, but from a place of honesty and understanding. In case you’ve never noticed it from watching his 100 days of videos, but there were times when he didn’t know if he could accomplish what he set out to do. But he kept on keeping on, because he was Mark Baumer, vegan superhero!

Infrastructure matters. Maintaining that system requires public investments. But investments in public resources have become a point of contention for what might be half of all Americans. Their fixation on lower taxes framed by a childlike petulance could be represented with a phrase like, “government be damned!”

Congressional Republicans, a sorry lot of humanity indeed, seem hellbent of making sure that our joke of a president gets one thing accomplished—tax cuts. That’s fine. Cut taxes to the bone, I don’t care—just be prepared for the day when the government that you enjoy and even rely upon is no longer there.

I hate to paint so broadly, but I get a sense that a certain white male over the age of 65 thinks that government is always the problem. Of course, he is likely receiving benefits under Original Medicare, and now, has additional options like Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans if he can afford them. If he can, it’s probably because he had a job working for some large firm, like Bath Iron Works, and has a nice pension and retirement nest egg to take him into his twilight years. And while he rails against government, he conveniently overlooks a key fact—his lifestyle is tied to government contracts being funneled up the Kennebec River for his enrichment. Funny how that works.

Monday morning, Mary and I walked to the end of our street that abuts Route 24/Harpswell Road. She wanted to see if she could get out and head into Portland to work. We didn’t have power, everything was in the able hands of master freelance writer and jack-of-all trades, Mr. B, so why not? One problem. There was a tree down that prevented a vehicle exiting the neighborhood.

Then, like a white knight riding in to save the day in an old-time Hollywood movie, a bucket loader appeared from the north, pushed the tree aside. We gave the operator a thumbs-up as he whizzed by, up the hill surveying our cul-de-sac to the end and like he arrived, was gone in a flash. I’m guessing he was from the Town of Brunswick.

Downed tree pushed aside by bucket-rider.

Our bucket-riding cowboy was about triage and efficiency, there were still tree limbs, large branches, and a host of other debris left behind. Each time you drove in or out, you had to go around it, or get something wedged up under your car, like happened to me on Monday.

I intended to take care of this myself if someone else didn’t. And then, I got busy.

Monday became Tuesday. I went into town to charge my phone and do some work at Wild Oats Bakery at the Tontine Mall. They had electricity and coffee. I had calls to make at the end of the day, and then I was off to tutor at the private school in Bath where I’ve been tutoring since the start of their school year.

On Wednesday, I fully expected my neighbor to have taken her tractor and cleared the remaining debris. Others on the street have been driving over it, and it was started to annoy me. When I got home at 10:00 last night, it was still there. I vowed to take care of it myself when I hauled the trash to the end of our driveway on Thursday.

Thursday is trash day at the cove. I put out my one receptible of trash and my accompanying recycling bin and made my way back down the driveway to retrieve my metal rake. Mr. B was going to take on neighborhood clean-up duties.

I wish you could have seen me with my metal-pronged leaf rake, igniting sparks with each flourish across the pavement, sending branches, pine cones, and other debris flying for cover on the shoulders of the street. I was even composed a song ala Mark, and really embellishing my follow-through. I’m sure drivers passing on Route 24 thought I was looney tunes. I’m surprised someone didn’t call the cops on me, just like passers-by did nearly every day on Mark during his final walk, especially while passing through Trump Country. When you see something different in America, we’re trained to call the PoPo, at least if you hold to the myth of “law and order.”

Rake-work on the cove.

“Whoa, pardner!!” You’re talking a man with a rake, clearing debris, not waiting for government to take care of it—that’s crazy different. But, it might become a necessity and the norm if the tax-gutters get their way.

It might be time to work on those raking moves. Maybe even launch a professional raking league. How about the National Professional Raking League (NPRL)?

Buddah guarding “the rake.”